The phylogeny of human globin genes investigated by the maximum parsimony method

Morris Goodman, G. William Moore, John Barnabas, Genji Matsuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Gene phylogenetic trees were constructed by the maximum parsimony method for various sets of ninety six globin chain amino acid sequences spanning plant and animal kingdoms. The method, executed by several computer programs, constructed ancestor and descendant globin messengers on tree topologies which required the least number of nucleotide replacements to account for the evolution of the globins. The human myoglobin-hemoglobin divergence was traced to a gene duplication which occurred either in the first vertebrates or earlier yet in the common ancestor of chordates and annelids, the alpha-beta divergence to a gene duplication in the common ancestor of teleosts and tetrapods, the gamma divergence from typical beta chains to a gene duplication in basal therian mammals, and the delta separation from beta to a duplication in the basal catarrhine primates. Evidence was provided by the globin phylogenies for the hominoid affinities of the gibbon and the close phyletic relationship of the African apes to man. Over the period of teleos-tetrapod divergence the globin messengers evolved at an average rate of 18.5 nucleotide replacements per 100 codons per 108 years, a faster rate than most previous estimates. Very fast and very slow rates were encountered in different globin lineages and at different stages of descent, reducing the effectiveness of globins as molecular clocks. Rates increased with gene duplication and decreased after selection discovered useful specializations in the products of genes which had previously been freer to accept mutations. The early eutherian radiation was characterized by rapid rates of globin evolution, but the later hominoid radiation by extremely slow rates. This pattern was related to more complicated grades of internal organization evolving in human ancestors. The types of nucleotide replacements in the globin messengers over the long course of globin evolution did not seem indicative of any special mutational mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-48
Number of pages48
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1974
Externally publishedYes


  • Ancestral Sequences
  • Gene Duplication
  • Globin Evolution
  • Nucleotide Replacements
  • Phylogenetic Trees
  • Rate of Protein Evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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